Michael Hagemeister, “The Occult Roots of Soviet Space Travel: Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s ‘Cosmic Philosophy’”

Michael Hagemeister, “The Occult Roots of Soviet Space Travel: Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s ‘Cosmic Philosophy’”

Michael Hagemeister, “The Occult Roots of Soviet Space Travel: Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s ‘Cosmic Philosophy’”

Free admission

April 6, 2024, 5pm
172 Classon Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11205

Join us on Saturday, April 6 at 5pm for The Occult Roots of Soviet Space Travel: Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s “Cosmic Philosophy, a talk by historian Michael Hagemeister.

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), an eccentric, half-deaf teacher of physics and mathematics in the provincial town of Kaluga, is considered the “grandfather of Soviet space travel.” At the dawn of the space age, Soviet propaganda turned him into a cult figure, censoring his publications and stylizing his biography. 

Little is it known that Tsiolkovsky developed a “cosmic philosophy,” and that the cosmonautical calculations and sketches that made him famous (and laid the foundations for the Soviet space program) grew out of this philosophy. Tsiolkovsky’s “cosmic philosophy,” which he himself considered to be his greatest achievement, was a peculiar synthesis of vitalism, panpsychism, and monadology with Gnostic, theosophical, and spiritualist thought. It deals with highly evolved rational beings inhabiting the universe, with eternally “living and happy atoms,” with the sensibility of matter and the conscious energy inherent in all matter, striving for further development, perfection, and eternal happiness. Ultimately, space travel was merely a means to this end. 

This presentation will outline Tsiolkovsky’s “cosmic philosophy” and identify its roots in occult thought, the “secret doctrines” of the theosophists published in Kaluga in the early twentieth century, Ernst Haeckel’s pan-psychist theory of evolution, and the cosmic-spiritualist philosophical works of Camille Flammarion and Carl du Prel, which offer a synthesis of Darwinism and occultism. Finally, Tsiolkovsky will be discussed in the context of so-called “Russian Cosmism,” a hybrid ideological construct developed in the 1970s to provide the Soviet space program with an indigenous philosophical basis.

For more information, contact program@e-flux.com.

–Two flights of stairs lead up to the building’s front entrance at 172 Classon Avenue. 
–For elevator access, please RSVP to program@e-flux.com. The building has a freight elevator which leads into the e-flux office space. Entrance to the elevator is nearest to 180 Classon Ave (a garage door). We have a ramp for the steps within the space. 
–e-flux has an ADA-compliant bathroom. There are no steps between the event space and this bathroom.

Soviet Union, Russia

Michael Hagemeister is a historian and Slavicist. He has published widely on Russian philosophy and intellectual history, apocalyptic and utopian thought, antisemitism and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Hagemeister was employed at universities in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. His publications include Die Neue Menschheit: Biopolitische Utopien in Russland zu Beginn des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts (The New Humanity: Biopolitical Utopias in Russia at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century), eds. Boris Groys and Michael Hagemeister (2005/2016); “Konstantin Tsiolkovskii and the Occult Roots of Soviet Space Travel,” in Birgit Menzel et al., eds., The New Age of Russia: Occult and Esoteric Dimensions (2012); and “Le ‘cosmisme russe’, ‘philosophie de l’avenir’?” (‘Russian Cosmism’: ‘Philosophy of the Future’?), in Françoise Lesourd, ed., Le cosmisme russe: Tentative de définition (2018).

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